Tuesday, September 1, 2009

She Walks These Hills - Sharyn McCrumb

Summary from Sharyn McCrumb's web site

She Walks These Hills: An Introduction

She Walks These Hills is the story of mountain journeys, both literal and figurative. Charlotte Pentland's passion is the first Appalachian journey: that of the mountains themselves. Through a vein of the mineral serpentine that runs from the hills of Georgia up to Nova Scotia, she hopes to trace the mountains' kinship back across the ocean following the serpentine chain to its beginning, in the mountains of western Scotland. Scholarly research in a good place to hide from an unpleasant reality: that Charlotte's father is the escaped convict, even now wandering in the Appalachians.

Historian Jeremy Cobb is backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, attempting to retrace the tragic journey of Katie Wyler, who was kidnapped by the Shawnee in 1789, and who escaped, making her way home through hundreds of miles of wilderness. Jeremy has no trail experience, but he is determined to complete his scholarly quest or die trying. He doesn't know that the spirit of Katie Wyler is still seen wandering the hills, trying to get home. Mountain wise woman Nora Bonesteel sees her every autumn "when the air is crisp, and the light is slanted, and the birds are still."

Sheriff Spencer Arrowood feels sorry for Harm, imprisoned for life for killing a hated local bureaucrat. There is even some doubt about Harm's guilt. Besides, the elderly convict has Korsakov's syndrome, a side effect of chronic alcoholism that robs its sufferers of their recent memories. To Harm, it is always 1967. As the psychiatrist tells a deputy: "You may get this fellow out of the hills, but you'll never get him out of the past. He's got nowhere to go." Harm doesn't even remember the crime. He doesn't know he's an escaped convict. For Martha Ayers, who wants the job of deputy, catching Harm Sorely would be the best way to prove her fitness for the position.

Harm, an Appalachian Don Quixote on the edge of reality, meets both Jeremy and the still-wandering Katie Wyler on his journey back to a home that isn't there any more. He is the "last moonshiner," holding the dream of an unspoiled wilderness in the fragile web of his delusions. When he goes, it will be lost forever.

My Review

I had no idea what to expect going in to the this book. Was it a mystery? historical fiction? literary fiction? ghost story? I'm still not sure how exactly you would class this book but I do know it was a great story no matter where you shelve it.

The multiple story lines and characters made it difficult to really connect with any of the characters but that really didn't matter. The writing style is very lyrical which I sometimes find distracting but it really worked with this book.

The author had a habit of leaving cliffhangers everytime the character point of view changed making this a very difficult book to put down and a very quick read.

This is a difficult review to write because it's hard to summarize exactly why I liked this book. There was so much going on and the way all the plot lines ended up tying in together was really well done. All I can say is to just try the book and you'll see what I mean.

Rating 8/10


Hilcia said...

This book sounds really interesting! I'm going to look it up... thanks for the review. :)

novelnelle said...

Hi Hilcia,

I hope you enjoy it - it's definitely different.